Last of the Hollywood greats: Dame Elizabeth Taylor has died in hospital aged 79 of congestive heart failure
Actress Dame Elizabeth Taylor has died at the age of 79, her publicist confirmed in a statement today.
The star passed away from congestive heart failure in hospital last night having suffered from the condition since November 2004.
She was admitted to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles 'for monitoring' last month.
Her publicist confirmed: 'Legendary actress, and fearless activist Elizabeth Taylor died peacefully today in Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.'
The English-American star, considered one of the great actresses - and great beauties - of Hollywood's golden age, was surrounded by her children: Michael Wilding, Christopher Wilding, Liza Todd, and Maria Burton.
Dame Elizabeth's son, Michael Wilding, said in a statement: 'We will always be inspired by her enduring contribution to our world.
'My mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humour, and love.
He added: 'Though her loss is devastating to those of us who held her so close and so dear, we will always be inspired by her enduring contribution to our world.
'Her remarkable body of work in film, her ongoing success as a businesswoman, and her brave and relentless advocacy in the fight against HIV/AIDS, all make us all incredibly proud of what she accomplished. We know, quite simply, that the world is a better place for Mum having lived in it.
'Her legacy will never fade, her spirit will always be with us, and her love will live forever in our hearts.'
In addition to her children, she is survived by ten grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Her last show: Elizabeth was snapped celebrating her 79th birthday a month early in January before she was admitted to hospital a few days after
Tributes: Flowers are placed on Elizabeth Taylor's star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame
Dame Elizabeth was said to weigh less than 98lbs when she died after spending the last two weeks of her life on a respirator in hospital.
‘She was tiny and she was fighting for every breath,’ said a friend.
'She still felt that she had so much to live for.
‘But she was happy with her life at the end. She was happy with her family – she was at peace.’
The actress’s four children, ten grandchildren and four great grandchildren are expected to share much of her $600 million fortune, although she is leaving some to her AIDS charity, added the friend.
She kept handwritten diaries through much of her life and was said to have discussed a deal to publish them as an explosive memoir following her death.
Doctors were said to be hopeful that she could return to her Bel Air mansion just days before her long-term congestive heart problem took a dramatic turn for the worse.
Her death comes exactly 53 years after she was widowed when third husband, film producer Michael Todd, died in a plane crash.
Dame Elizabeth turned 79 on February 27 but celebrated with her friends and family a month early as ten days later she was admitted to hospital to undergo surgery to repair a leaky heart valve.
The Hollywood veteran, who was born in Hampstead north London, announced the news via social networking site Twitter.
She used Twitter to relay news of her illness to supporters asking them to pray for her.
'I'll let you know when it is all over. Love you, Elizabeth,' was one of the final messages she tweeted.
Dame Elizabeth had struggled with her health for a number of years - and towards the end of her life was confined to a wheelchair.
She broke her back at least five times, had three bouts of pneumonia of which one, in 1961, required a tracheotomy, and another, in 1990, nearly killed her.
There were two hip-replacement operations and surgery to remove a benign golf ball-sized brain tumour, plus two stays at the Betty Ford clinic.
More health troubles plagued Taylor in the late 1980s including recurring back trouble that led her to start drinking again and she developed a dependency on pain-killing drugs.
But throughout all this Dame Elizabeth managed to retain her sense of humour.
In 1999, when asked what she would like to see written on her gravestone, she replied: 'Here lies Elizabeth. She hated being called Liz. But she lived.'
The actress's star burned brightly in the spotlight since finding fame in Hollywood at the age of 12.
And her incandescent beauty stood out in the town stuffed with starlets due to her unique violet coloured eyes.
She earned four Oscar nominations- for Raintree County, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly, Last Summer - finally winning at her fourth attempt with film Butterfield 8.
And in 1961 she became the highest-paid actress in America and the first star ever to be paid $1million for a screen appearance.
She received the fee for the lead in Cleopatra - a lavish costume drama about ancient Rome and Egypt.
When the film was released in 1962 it was a critical flop but earned enough at the box office to cover the vast production costs.
Enduring love: Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor met during filming of 1963's Cleopatra - one of the most expensive films of all time
Her second Oscar came in 1967 for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.
The last of the great Hollywood movie stars,she became famed not just her stunning beauty or talent but also for her chequered love life.
Dame Elizabeth married eight times to seven husbands - most notably the late Welsh-born actor Richard Burton, who she married twice.
The warring couple, who met during filming of 1963's Cleopatra - one of the most expensive films of all time - made 12 films together.
Scandal erupted when Taylor and Burton - both married - began an affair.
Dame Elizabeth and Burton divorced their respective spouses and wed in 1964. He would become Taylor's fifth - and sixth - husband.
Love of my life: Elizabeth pictured with her fifth and sixth husband, Welsh actor Richard Burton, who died August 1984
Upon their engagement, Burton gave Taylor the 33-carat Krupp diamond, the first of several spectacular named gems that Taylor, who had a lifelong obsession with jewellery, would own.
The Taylor-Burton romance was notoriously stormy and passionate. And the couple was famous worldwide for their opulent jet-setting lifestyle, with multimillion-dollar homes and private yachts.
Throughout the relationship Burton continued to lavish extravagant jewellery on Taylor including the extraordinary Taylor-Burton, then 69.42-carat, colourless diamond, which he purchased in 1969 for $1.1million in a private sale from Cartier.
They divorced over Burton's excessive drinking habit in 1974 after ten years together only to remarry the following year before divorcing again in 1976.
During the relationship the couple adopted a daughter together, Maria Burton born 1 August, 1961, who Taylor remained close to after their separation.
In a 2006 interview Taylor referred to Burton as her 'soulmate'.
Elizabeth Taylor in 1934, and right as a young starlet on the brink of fame in National Velvet
'Richard enriched my life in different ways, internal journeys into feelings and thoughts,' Taylor said.
'He taught me poetry and literature, and introduced me to worlds of beauty. He made me laugh. He made me cry. He explored areas in me that I knew existed but which had never been touched. There was never a dull moment.
'I loved Richard through two marriages and until the day he died.'
As well as her film career, Dame Elizabeth is also known for her work for AIDS related charities.
Along with other Hollywood celebrities she helped start the American Foundation for AIDS Research after the AIDS related death of her former co-star and friend, Rock Hudson in 1985.
She also created her own AIDS foundation, the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation.
Jane Fonda led the tributes pouring in from Taylor's celebrity friends. She said in a statement: 'Elizabeth, on every level, was a mensch. Kind, generous, brave.'
Elton John said: 'We have just lost a Hollywood giant; more importantly, we have lost an incredible human being.'
Celebrities also took to social networking site Twitter to honour the actress. Former CNN chat show host Larry King tweeted: 'Elizabeth Taylor was a great friend, a great star and one gutsy woman. She was so special. You won't see the likes of her again.
Singer George Michael wrote: 'Such a sad day, Elizabeth Taylor was the last of the Hollywood greats, and a fantastically charming woman.
'She was also the only person I've ever met that had violet eyes. They were genuinely violet. So beautiful.
'She also did a great deal in the last 25 yrs to help the world deal with the HIV epidemic. I am proud to have known her if only a little.'
Pop star Kylie Minogue wrote: 'RIP Dame Elizabeth Taylor.....Like a pure white diamond you'll shine on and on and on.'
While actress Kirstie Alley said: 'Elizabeth...thank you for the lessons you taught me about life...suffering and joy....you are the brightest star in the universe...Eternal love.'
While Britain's Stephen Fry simply said: 'RIP Dame Elizabeth Taylor, surely the last of a breed.'
Considered by many to be the closest America has had to royalty, her every move was chronicled by the tabloid and mainstream press as her tumultuous career soared to the heights of stardom and the depths of despair.
Above all the actress demonstrated an uncanny ability to rebound, endure and thrive after blows to her health and well-being.
'The ups and downs, the problems and stress, along with all the happiness, have given me optimism and hope because I am living proof of survival,' she said.
'I've come through things that would have felled an ox. That fills me with optimism, not just for myself but for our particular species.'
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